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Posted: Sun Sep 01, 2002 11:51 am
by Mr Jo Macdonald
Wave riding guidelines discussion

I would like to get some kite wave riding guidelines together for kiters who want to start playing in the waves.
These are my thought and ideas on the basis of my wave riding + windsurfing experience. As I don’t have any direct experience of kitesurfing in serious waves, feedback, suggestions, additions, criticism and words of wisdom from experienced kite flying wave riders is essential, so people with such experience please say your piece.

These are my ideas:

1. Know your limits. Don't try it in anything bigger than waist height until you’re hot in easier (flat, choppy, hip high waves) conditions and can fly a kite in your sleep, big waves can hit with a force of more than 3 tons per square foot when they break.
2. Before you go out, sit on the beach and watch the waves for a while, especially if you’re at a spot you don’t know. Remember that from the beach the waves will look smaller than they actually are when you’re out there.
3. Before going in ask locals for advice, a beach break is a lot friendlier than a shallow reef break. A wave will break in water roughly 1.3 times the height of the wave face, so this can give you an idea of how deep the water is. Some reef breaks can actually suck most of the water away from the wave’s path and this can be unnerving when you’re on the wave because it will hurt if you fall. Many great spots have sharp rocky shores, it’s your life and your equipment.
4. Avoid spots/days with waves that closeout (the whole bar crashes down simultaneously) especially big closeouts, they are nasty.
5. Check your equipment, which should be perfect, and warm up before you go in.
6. Always try to keep your kite flying and if it does go down relaunch as quick as you can. Be good at it in flat water before you try it in waves.
7. Sideshore, side onshore and side offshore are best for wave riding, jumping and if there’s nothing else, in that order. Straight onshore is much harder to go out in because the wind and waves will push you back towards the beach all the time, there will probably be a strong current in the same direction and you will have to kite upwind right away so only try it if you’re powered up.
8. Unless there’s onshore wind, waves usually come in sets of 3-5 or more, (in onshore wind it will probably just be a mess), if it’s your first time in serious waves or you’re going to try anything flash, wait for the last wave of the set to do your thing. This way if you goof it you should (hopefully) have enough time to get your act together before the next set hits you. If you fall on the first wave of a set you’ll get pounded by the rest of the set and be wiser for it. You can jump the waves as you go out and surf them as you come in.
9. Don’t panic in a wipeout, try to be aware of where your equipment is, a last look before you go down is good if you get the chance. When you do fall, try to fall over/through the wave and not down its face.
10. Waves further out to sea are a lot calmer than near the beach. When starting out from the beach, watch the waves, wait for the calm after a set has finished breaking, then go out quick, if possible straight out (side shore wind is easiest). Get through the shore break then stay out in the real waves, they’re bigger too. After the shore break (going out) is the impact zone where the bigger waves break and you don’t want to hang around here too long either. Don’t get into the shore break again until it’s time to come in, which is before you get tired and start making mistakes. Riding a wave in is a good way to get back to the beach.

11. If a wave is too big for you, run (kite) away from it, he who turns and kites away rides to surf another wave.
12. Keep an eye on big waves coming in when you’re playing in their garden. Every once in a while a freak wave can come in which is a lot bigger than the rest and it will probably break earlier too. A wave doesn’t have to be really big to hit hard, the thickness and speed of a wave, as well as the way/how fast it jacks up when it hits the shallows can turn a smooth ocean roller into a spitting, awesome tube.
13. If you don’t have any experience with waves, (maybe you kite on a lake) try surfing them with a surfboard or bodyboard first, this will give you an idea of how powerful they are and how a board can react in waves.
14. Respect surfers, they are a lot less manoeuvrable than you and have been surfing waves for a lot longer too (in Hawaii since the 15th century).
15. Some riders wear floatation vests, others don’t. A floaty pfd will mean a wave can get a better hold of you and a wipeout can last longer, but if you do get knocked unconscious it can save your life. Try going out in the waves without your kite and try both ways then decide, it’s your life.
16. If you use a board leash, use a helmet too.

The above is all pretty standard windsurfing/surfing wave riding stuff and what I’ve learnt at my expense.
The following points are the more specific kite flying/wave riding points I’m not too sure about and probably what need changing most, because they’re just theory.

17. Avoid sushi rolls at all costs, this is when you fall into a wave down its face with your lines slack/kite down and the wave rolls you in your lines, if the kite powers up or gets dragged down by the waves it will not be funny at all. If you’re kite is down avoid getting tangled in your lines at all costs. If you do get tangled in your lines and things look like they could get nasty, or already are, cut your lines as fast as you can. Carry a hook knife.
18. Avoid flying your kite seawards straight in front of you (wave wise) this would mean offshore wind anyway (ideal surfing conditions) so you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place, because if you and the kite fall and the kite gets submerged by the waves, it will be pushed towards you and you will be in the midst of your lines. If you are worried about getting caught in your lines, swim towards/into the waves and crosswise away from where the waves are dragging your lines which will be towards the beach. Dive under a wave so it doesn’t sweep you away.
19. Use floating lines and bar. Unless they are actually being swirled in a wave, to avoid the lines you can dive under them if all else fails, just be careful not to surface in their midst.
20. To get past a wave that’s coming for you when you’re on your board, you can jump over it (using your legs to lift your board over the wave as you hit it if you don’t want to rocket skywards on every wave you hit), dive the kite down a bit to build up speed and ride straight through with the nose of your board it if the wave’s not too big, or if you don’t like the look of it, change course and ride past it or over a section that hasn’t broken yet (remember that it might start breaking by the time you get there) or through the part that’s already broken. White water and bubbling foam will play havoc with the way your board rides so watch it. If you hit the wave with the edge of the board the wave will grab it a lot more than if you hit with the nose. Use your kite to lift you/jump out of rough situations.
21. You can jump a lot higher in waves than in flat water, so watch your landings. When in the air look to see when and where you’ll be landing. Landing a high jump with your board flat is the easiest way to break your board or ankles. Use the kite to slow your descent, try to land on the back of the board and use your legs as shock absorbers. Be careful if jumping near the shore because the backwash of a wave, especially a big one can drag a lot of water off the beach and any left behind may be a lot shallower than you think. If you’re too close to the beach when landing a jump, kick your board off and land on your feet.
22. A low AR kite is a lot easier and faster to relaunch in waves than a high AR kite.
23. On light wind days you can use a floaty directional to surf waves even when you’re underpowered.

Remember, waves are beautiful graceful creatures but they’re not your friends and have no qualms about trashing you and/or your gear. Respect them always, they are a lot stronger than you will ever be.

Hang loose

Posted: Sun Sep 01, 2002 12:59 pm
by Guest
Well said. Thanks for taking this time to write it.

It brings to mind that the power of waves are to be considered, but we bring added danger: high-tension wire to get caught in. That is a threat!

After getting wacked in shorebreak. I always wear a helmet in the surf because unlike my surfboard which gets kicked out in front of me most times when I bail - the kiteboard is unpredictable..and close.

Again, thanks Jo.

Posted: Sun Sep 01, 2002 9:28 pm
by Toby
I couldn't see it anywhere, but maybe it has been mentioned:

always have a knife with you when you go out in waves.


Posted: Sun Sep 01, 2002 9:51 pm
by Mr Jo Macdonald
Thanks 4 the feedback Toby. That's the last thing in point 17 on how to avoid becoming a sushi roll.
Anything you think is blatantly wrong or potentially dangerous in the draft?

Posted: Sun Sep 01, 2002 9:56 pm
by Toby
aaaah :roll:
too tired to see anything at the moment.
ok, now I saw it.
So far it looks good to me, all logical.
Will read it again tomorrow, as I said, too tired....

But it looks that good so I want to put it into the B2B (FAQ) section.


Posted: Sun Sep 01, 2002 10:04 pm
by Mr Jo Macdonald
Yeah the idea is to put the finished guidlines somewhere where they're available for anyone who is thinking about trying their stuff in the waves for the first time. First though I want to be sure there's no bad advice or important stuff missing so any feedback is welcome. I'm adding suggestions as I get them.
We must be in the same time zone,zzzzzzz.

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2002 11:36 am
by Toby
I'm not used to such big waves, so maybe you can tell me and others, if there is anything wise to do when you notice a big wave will break on you. Should I steer the kite somewhere so it gets me out of there or anything?

The other tips are good, as far as I can imagine.


Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2002 12:03 pm
by jever98
From kiting in SA: you are fairly safe if you hold it at 11 o'clock, since it is not in zenith, and the kite will pull you through a wave fairly well. Just make sure it doesn't come down...

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2002 6:21 pm
by Mr Jo Macdonald
Hi Toby,
No personal experience of really big waves breaking on me while kiting thanks but imo the best way to deal with this is to avoid the situation in the first place, decent waves will start breaking right or left or both so if you keep an eye on them just a relatively small change of direction will take you away from the breaking wave to a calmer zone where the wave hasn't broken yet or won't anyway. That's the run away point I made. If the spot/day has big waves that are closing out so you have nowhere to go to avoid them other than back to the beach I wouldn't recommend leaving the beach in the first place, find another spot. From what I know people riding really big waves approach the wave from another direction where there are no waves or smaller anyway and then carefully choose their wave to ride in, leaving it before it crashes on their head, but this is the most extreme edge of any wave sport.
I dunno, if despite this a big wave does crash down on you I don't think you can do much about it because we're talking about tons and tons of fast swirling water which will probably slam you onto the bottom hard. In the worst case scenario I'd say ditch everything and dive deep into the wave, that way you might stand a chance.
Anyone else?